Community Solidarity & Progress

by Rachael Otoo

How is our community progressing if you are supported, but I am struggling?!

I attended Acton-Boxborough high school, and I noticed that there were programs available for students with different forms of disabilities, including learning disability. There was also an ELL class, to help students struggling with English. I noticed the students were given resources to support them in school. The school strived to include all the students. When there were school dance events, all students could participate or talent shows.

To feel included in a community, all members within the communities should have support. There are students who may feel that they need more support in certain areas, that other students may not need. Therefore, communities need to endeavor to fund programs such as educational programs for students. The programs should not be just in schools, but also within the communities.

There are after-school programs such as Girls Inc, and the Boys & Girls Club. These are non-profit program. Most of the children are not from wealthy families, and so, it is affordable for them to attend these programs. This solidifies the belief that, communities need to be mindful of everyone within the communities including children. The need for programs such as Girls Inc is created to be accessible to all children. These programs support students who need extra support in their academics, as well as provide them with the skills and knowledge to achieve professional and personal goals.

Programs like Girls Inc and Boys & Girls club encourage cultural integration, and diversity. They teach children about collaboration, leadership skills, healthy lifestyle etc. When children are granted the opportunities to succeed in school, they feel a sense of inclusion in the community. This would encourage them to apply the skills and knowledge they have learned to excel in the communities as well. Children grow up to become teachers, doctors, lawyers, nurses, artists, activists etc.

I intern at Girls Inc, and I have learned that the girls in the program are empowered and taught to achieve their aspirations. They are informed on ways to achieve their life goals, and taught to be socially aware of social justice and injustices. This teaches them what it means for them to be a part of community, and being in a program that supports them proves that they matter in the community. They would be able to contribute to the community to be involve in the communities in the future.

This indicates that for communities to thrive, children from diverse groups and socioeconomic backgrounds should be given the resources to excel. Children are part of the community, which means that they need to feel a sense of belonging in the community. There is no equality, if children and their needs are disregarded. This is especially true for students from different socioeconomic backgrounds, diversity and with disabilities. They need to feel involved and mattered in the community.

To provide programs such as Girls Inc, Boys & Girls club, and even school programs, funding needs to be available to support them. Learning grants were also in education that provided, computer classes, language classes, tutoring and self-esteem workshops for people in the community (Foster-Fisherman et al, 2006). Without the funds, members of the community such as the students would not be able to succeed, and socially included within the community.  The Frederick Assad Abisi Adult Education center is designed for adults who want to achieve their education. The availability of this program shows that there are members of a community that aspire to further their education. The funding for the Lowell Adult Education program provides them with the support to attend school. The center supports them in taking the GED exam. Members of a community need funding for programs that would support them.


#uml #commpsych




Foster-Fishman, P. G., Fitzgerald, K., Brandell, C., Nowell, B., Chavis, D., & Egeren, L. A. (2006). Mobilizing Residents for Action: The Role of Small Wins and Strategic Supports. American Journal of Community Psychology, 38(3-4), 213-220

Happily Ever After with Community Psychology

by Stephanie Sullivan

Taking a deep breath, I walked through the halls of Kripalu yoga retreat center. I would be leaving tomorrow, I knew, so I wanted to bask in the bliss of this no-stress retreat as much as possible. My plan was to bring this peace with me and live like this for the rest of my life.

As you may have already predicted, it didn’t happen.

I like the way my yoga teacher herself put it: “It’s so nice and peaceful there and I start to really feel like myself again, in the natural state of peace, and then I come home, and the kitchen’s a mess, nothing’s taken care of, and I’m back in the stress of the real world all over again!”

While we would do well to accept we cannot change other people or much of our surroundings, community psychology points to some solutions – as well as an explanation for why that sense of peace doesn’t last after experiencing a peaceful environment.

It is no secret that we are influenced by our environments. Social contexts change people’s behaviors and basic aspects of a person, particularly group norms. You may have also heard the famous quote by Gandhi, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Just as your social groups influence you, you also have an influence on that social group (Moos, 2003). So, the peaceful parent can be a positive influence in a hectic home without having to change anybody directly.

Three characteristics of social contexts community psychologists have noted for being particularly powerful are the directions of personal growth, the quality of relationships, and the level of clarity, structure, and openness to change (Moos, 2003). Try balancing these three aspects in the main environments in your life in a positive way as best you can. Having positive and consistent relationships, being clear and flexible, and intentionally promote independence and self-discovery for yourself and those around you will make your social environments very powerful. These characteristics are especially important for parents interested in the well-being of their children, as family life typically has a long-term effect on people (Moos, 2003).

Research has shown that mutual help groups which provide long-lasting relationships, goal direction, and structure often produce powerful results, with or without intervention (Moos, 2003). My yoga teacher and I both felt stressed coming home because the retreat could be compared to an intervention, which lacked the capacity to become an integral part of our lives. When we leave a setting, no matter how powerful, the effect lessens over time – for better or for worse (Moos, 2003). That’s why it’s important to have long-term relationships with peaceful and happy people if we want those qualities for ourselves.

Through a process called the Transcending Process, we can create an entirely new social context. To be happy and peaceful takes putting in the effort to offset the stressful lifestyle around us with alternative environments that mirror our goals (Moos, 2003). Maybe we can directly work with our families to make home more peaceful, or create a group with like-minded people to work towards our happiness goals.

Finally, we need to be accountable to ourselves for the stressors in our lives, which can have a cumulative effect and make it difficult to be truly happy.

According to the LISRES Adult Form (Life Stressors and Social Resources Subscales), stressors include physical health, the physical conditions of our home and neighborhood, financial problems, negative events, our work environment, issues with our friends, romantic partner, our children, and extended family can all bring us down (Moos, 2003). To be happy, then, we should be sure to care for our physical health to prevent injury and sickness, make the special effort to make our home feel attractive and comfortable, get our finances in order as best we can, make and embrace positive events in our lives, and maximize positivity in our interpersonal relationships.

Life is not a fairy tale and there is no need to put our happiness up to chance. This blog is meant to detail what research demonstrates we can do to alleviate our stress and build happiness. In doing so, the world truly becomes a better place. Life is difficult and stressful enough as it is, and this research shows us that there are tangible ways to prevail. Social contexts are interconnected, and it within our power to make our mark. In the interest of creating a more peaceful and happy world, we can make the choice to stop being part of the problem, and finally become part of the solution – no yoga retreat center required.

#UML #commpsych



Moos, R. H. (2003). Social Contexts: Transcending Their Power and Their Fragility. American Journal of Community Psychology, 31(1-2), 1-13. doi:10.1023/a:1023041101850

Gaining and Losing

by Rachael Otto

Who wants a baconator?!

It is loaded with cheese and lots of bacon! Get a combo with a large coca cola and large fries!

Whenever I watch TV, there is always a commercial by McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy’s, etc. The advertisements are designed to appeal to the people to purchase from either one of these fast food restaurants. I personally, have had moments when I had craved Burger King fries. I would eat it, and be consumed with guilt afterwards, since I strive to eat healthy.

Community social psychology concentrates on the progress and wellness of a community. A community that concentrates on its members’ wellbeing enables the community to thrive, collectively. The progress of a community essentially depends on the values within the community. Every member of the community can promote their personal wellness.

The fast food restaurants earn billions of dollars each year. The owners of the restaurants are wealthy individuals whose personal growth can arguably relate to gaining successful fast food restaurants, and enormous wealth. However, their personal growth, in relation to the money they earn comes at the expense of another group, in the community. There are members in the community that are unable to purchase healthy foods due to the cost, and based on their socioeconomic status. Fast food restaurants are inexpensive and easily accessible.  Arguably, impoverished members within a community are likely to purchase fast food due to the inexpensive cost.  Purchasing fresh and healthy food can be expensive that members of an impoverished communities are not able to purchase.

The influence on an individual within a group also impacts the whole group. Personal, collective and relational wellness are endorsed by values such as health, self-determination, personal growth, etc. (Prilleltensky, 2001). He asserts that these values not only profit the individual but all members of the community, proving that individual wellness impacts the community wellness. The fast food restaurants in the U.S and in other countries as well, have become a billion-dollar food industry. Per data of food chain revenues in 2014, McDonalds gained $35.4 billion, Starbucks with $12.7 billion, Subway with $11.9 billion and Burger King with $8.6 billion (Roach & Schlossberg, 2015).

A community that business owners of fast food restaurants benefit high sums of revenue, does not consider the health needs of members within the community of lower income. Fast food might contain unhealthy ingredients that can lead to diseases such as diabetes, heart diseases and cancer. Many children suffer from obesity due to the fast food they are fed, like burgers. The values relating to the personal and collective wellness of a community resonates with this issue. The personal wellness connects to the community collective wellness. If fast food companies continue to thrive selling unhealthy foods, then the health of members within the community diminishes, as diseases spread and people lose their lives. People of lower socioeconomic status, when faced with diseases, struggle to handle medical cost, and possibly lead to their deaths within the community. Due to the billion-dollar revenues, the likelihood of fast food restaurants closing may not be feasible. People dying within the community would impact the business, decreasing revenues. The community would not be a healthy community.

The wealth of the individuals that own the restaurants could afford healthy and nutritious meals, and flourish in wealth, but at the expense of the health of lower income members within the community. This evidently proves that individual cannot achieve wellness without the community wellness as well. People of higher socioeconomic status, need to comprehend that the health of all members in the community need to be prioritized.


#uml #commpsych



Hah, K. (2016). Fast Foodies May Be Exposed To Highly ‘Toxic,’ Potentially ‘Cancer-Causing’ Chemicals, New Fast Food Study Reveals. Retrieved February 21, 2017, from

Prilleltensky. I. (2001). Value-Based Praxis in Community Psychology: Moving Toward Social Justice and Social Action, 29, 747-778.

Roach, D. R., & Schlossberg, M. (2015). The 20 fast food chains that rake in the most money. Retrieved February 21, 2017, from

Family Feud, Election Edition

by Rianna Grissom

Advocating for justice within public policy is a fundamental way in which community psychologists seek social change. Often the goal is to empower community members to get involved in the political process so that they can have their voices heard. This election season, citizen involvement does not seem to be an issue. In fact, the passionate discourse around our two presidential candidates has created a different problem entirely. Arguments between family, friends, and colleagues have reached a fever pitch, while attacks between strangers have gotten more vicious as well.

Political disagreements are to be expected during an election year, but typical debates over party membership, policies, and the like have turned into questions of character. This political season has weakened the foundation of “community” at multiple levels by creating distrust. Partisanship has led to a rift that is wreaking havoc on all types of relationships. In particular, there has been a lot of commentary on how differing opinions have impacted families and friendships, which is the most basic form of community. On a larger scale, the entire country is divided from liberals and conservatives fiercely defending their camps, while moderates side-eye us all.

In 2016, much of the political discourse is taking place on social media – and many have joked about the number of loved ones they have had to unfollow or unfriend. It has become such a source of contention that Saturday Night Live created a skit about how to avoid confrontation during Thanksgiving. So, what is so special about these candidates or this election to cause such uproar? Well, I could name many things… but what I think it comes down is the different perspectives on the social injustices that have been happening around the country, and the proposed solutions (assuming such events are even framed as injustice).

The past year has been filled with stories about immigration and refugees, LGBTQ rights, gender equality, police brutality, the wage gap, etc. Frequently, these stories are about people from the marginalized populations that we as community psychologists so often serve. People are drawing lines in the sand because these events prey on our moral beliefs, and those who diverge from our own moral code are offensive.

So, what do we do once the dust has settled and either Clinton or Trump is elected to office? How can we mend broken homes and form a bipartisanship that will unite our divided country? Is there something that can be put in motion before Election Day and be used to prevent this type of dissension in the future?

Perhaps we should take something out of the ecological systems theory playbook and consider are “adversaries” in context. What in their experience and environment has shaped their views and, ultimately, their decision to vote for a certain candidate? Is someone’s political affiliation necessarily a salient part of his or her identity? Is it for you? We could also take a community needs approach and consider the talents, strengths, skills, and abilities of each candidate rather than using a deficit-based assessment to determine their fitness for office.

Regardless of how we choose to vote, or whether we vote at all, Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump will become the next president of the United States of America. Unfortunately, no one can determine how successful his or her term in office will be until it is in motion. So, we must live with the choice and acknowledge success or failure as it comes and for what it is. Communities, no matter how they are defined, are only as strong as the relationships within them. We make advances as a community through alliances, trust, and respect for both our diversity and similarities.


#commpsych #UML


Rianna Grissom is a graduate student in the Applied Psychology and Prevention Science program at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

Participatory Action Research: The No-Brainer Method

by Tara Desmarais

What’s the point of community research? Is it to understand the deficits of a community, or the reason why one community is thriving more so than others? Or are we trying to understand a major health or economic issue?

For all these reasons and more, community research has continued to be a growing subject within psychology. Researchers focused on community issues have developed into their own group called, community psychologists. Rather than standard research, community psychologists are focused on using their research as a plan to create change and resolve issues within a community.

Throughout history, researchers obtained a bad reputation by walking into underserved communities claiming to be there to help, and leave creating more questions than answers. When a group of scientists, scholars, and funders walk into such communities it creates hope among the people that positive change will occur. People believe that researchers are there to better their community and get extremely let down and distrustful when that fails to happen. The method of research that caused such failures and distrust with communities was most likely from conventional or traditional research. Conventional research involves conducting interviews, case studies, surveys, focus groups and more. Once data is collected these researchers return to their peers discuss, analyze, and write up their findings. The data is then usually presented among other scholars, funders, or professionals acknowledging that an issue is or isn’t present and changes possibly need to be made. In most conventional methods it isn’t required to have a plan of action in which to solve the issue being researched. So the study concludes with the researcher gaining clinical experience, possibly a published article, and a community with the confirmation they have an issue.

How exactly did the community benefit from the research? You’re right, it didn’t. However, using other methods of research can prohibit occurrences like this from happening in community psychology.

When conducting research on communities’ participatory action research (PAR) should be the method of choice. By using PAR, community psychologists involve the people they are studying in on the research. Community members aren’t just being interviewed, surveyed, or put into groups. They actually assist researchers with the development of questions for these interviews, surveys, and have a say in how to divide groups. PAR allows stakeholders to be involved in every step of the process to decrease bias, gain different perspectives, and varied levels of knowledge.  Who better to create community questions needing answers, than someone that lives within the community? With the help of scholars, researchers, and professionals community members get the chance to gain new skills, knowledge, and competencies useful in all aspects of their lives. As community psychologists, we need to remember that our overall goal is to help the community in which we are researching and empower them. By including community members in on research and teaching them new techniques that can help them continue to solve problems even after the research is over, we are doing just that.  From collecting data, to analyzing, interpreting, and disseminating the results, the community is involved every step of the way. Included in the PAR technique is the plan used to take action in resolving the issue. Researchers and the community share responsibility in taking steps to make sure their findings produce positive results. In conventional research, taking action only happens when interested outside entities get involved.

Using participatory action research can result in an empowered community, with new sets of skills, and confidence that they can create change. Rather than feeling like a bunch of lab rats, the community can rest assure that they took part in creating change and bettering their peers. After learning about participatory action research, it seems like the no brainer method when working with communities.




Tara Desmarais is a graduate student in the Community Social Psychology program at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

Market Basket: How the Community Rallied and Created Change

by Michelline-Kiezer-Roles

If you recall the summer of 2014, and were living in New England, one thing will come to mind, and no, it’s not the beach or the weather; it’s the protests that occurred in support for Market

Basket CEO, Arthur T. Demoulas. Arthur T. Demoulas was greatly loved by his employees and when the Board of Directors fired him, the employees were angry. Employees at all levels of the company either resigned or took part in protests. The protests eventually expanded to customers who boycotted shopping at Market Basket until Arthur T. was reinstated in the company. I remember having to shop at other supermarkets and going to three different stores just to buy affordable groceries. Market Basket by far has the best prices. Other supermarket chains have just as good products, but there’s just something about Market Basket…and the community understands that.

So why did 25,000 employees, 7,000 vendors, and millions of citizens in the community stand behind this CEO? Well, Arthur T. is the son of one of the Demoulas’ brothers, who began the supermarket chain in 1916. Arthur T. was not the typical CEO. He knew his employees names, birthdays, and important facts about them (Launchpad, 2015). Despite being a millionaire CEO, Arthur T. focused his efforts on making Market Basket an exceptional place for people to work. His employees care about him because he truly cares about them and their families. He values his workers and treats them fairly.

The Market Basket employees around New England and their respective communities stood together to fight. What were they fighting for? Benefits, fair treatment, fair wages, and to escape working under a “corporation”. For many of the employees trying to make a living at a “minimum wage” position, not only were their jobs at stake, but their way of life as well …and they were not going down without a fight.

The community strongly advocated for Arthur T. to return to his leadership position within Market Basket. Employees were scared that the Board of Directors, who included his cousin, Arthur S., were going to sell the company and they were going to lose not only their benefits, but the family atmosphere they cherished (O’Neil, 2014). Arthur T. made it possible for his middle class employees to earn a living by paying them at an hourly rate above minimum wage.

The protests spanned from June 23 to August 27, 2014. During this time many employees did not work and the company lost millions and millions of dollars daily (O’Neil, 2014). All employees, even the ones at the lowest levels, chose to stand up for their cause. Community organizing and community advocacy were at the forefront of these protests. The protests were organized by the employees and regular everyday people, that decided they could not let their beloved CEO be threatened by a greedy Board of Directors and his angry cousin, Arthur S. The people lead peaceful protests and demonstrations all over New England, at various Market Basket locations, and at their corporate office in Tewksbury, MA. More than 6,000 people attended a protest in Tewksbury and to a clueless onlooker, you may have thought they were celebrating a big win for a sports team or that it was some kind of tailgating event (O’Neil, 2014). When the community strongly believes for a cause and stands together, they can accomplish anything.

The story of the Market Basket protests ends on a happy note. After two months of protests,

Arthur T. was able to purchase the remaining shares of the company and become full owner.

Now, he no longer has to worry about his cousin, Arthur S., trying to force him out of the company again. Hopefully this ends the feuding within the families that has been going on for decades. If not, there is one thing we can be sure of – if anyone tries coming for Arthur T. again, the community will rise up and support him.



Michelline Kiezer-Roles is a graduate student in the Community Social Psychology program at the University of Massachusetts Lowell




Launchpad. (2015, Nov. 11). Ted Leonsis, and the leadership lessons to be learned from ‘The Market Basket Effect’. Retrieved from

O’Neil, L. (2014, July 29). Sympathy for the overdog? Why are grocery workers in New England rallying around their millionaire ex- CEO? Retrieved from

Was It All Just “Gentle Fun?”

by Patricia Luki

A few days ago, I came across a video segment of a morning news show from Fox
News. I am not an avid TV news-watcher, so it was very surprising for me to see this
video went viral on different social media platforms.

The show segment is called Watter’s World on a news show called O’Reilly Factor. With
all the spotlights in the world are directed towards the United States’ presidential
election, it is shocking how China was brought up, mostly in a negative way, several
times by one of the candidates. In this segment, Jesse Watters asked people in the
Chinatown area in New York City about their thoughts on the presidential election.
Some of Watters ignorant remarks from the video included (Fox News, 2016):

“Am I supposed to bow to say hello?”

“Is this the year of the dragon? Rabbit?”

“Is everything made in China now? Tell me what’s not made in China. I can’t think of

“Do they call Chinese food in China just food?”

“Do you have traditional Chinese herbs for performance?”

“Do you know karate?”


Although some people might find this funny, or at least the producing team thinks it is,
the questions he asked has nothing to do with gathering sample of political opinions
from the Asian American population.

In the video, Watters interviewed some people in the area, some of them are elderly or
bystanders who do not really speak English. He went to them anyway and interviewed
them for their political opinions as a joke. You can also see in the video that some of the
people there are offended by his questions; for example, a guy was irritated when
Watters asked to translate a sentence in Chinese but unable to pronounce it back
correctly. However, this did not stop Watters to continue with his “gentle fun” interview.
How is this acceptable?

The most infuriating part of the whole segment was O’Reilly’s take on the whole
interview was that most of the people in Chinatown are aware of the political situation in
the United States. O’Reilly mentioned that some people say that the community is very
insulated and does not interact with American politics (Fox News, 2016). I’m not really
sure where he got this information from, but the reality is that most people read or watch
the news! Even people in Indonesia are aware about the political situation in the United
States. Moreover, Watters stated that most people in Chinatown did not know what was
going on. Well, if you’re going to ask questions about Chinese food or traditional
Chinese herbs, you are not going to have their political opinions about the presidential
election, Mr. Watters.

Another irritating part of this whole segment was how O’Reilly called this act as “gentle
fun” and “it’s all in good fun” (Fox News, 2016). The way they are poking fun at
stereotypes and getting away with it is just shocking to me. I just couldn’t believe that
this happened on television.

Moreover, the way Watters asked these questions implied that these people’s voices
did not matter. By being ignoring the background of the people who he interviewed, and
disregarding the fact that some of these people might be an American citizen who are
eligible to vote, Watters failed to acknowledge that their opinions do matter!

In community psychology, Isaac Prilleltensky talked about values in praxis, which
includes respect for diversity (Prilleltensky, 2001). These values state that professionals
working with the field should promote respect and appreciation for diverse social
identities and unique oppressions (Prilleltensky, 2001).

I think that Watters’ video segment should be a reminder for all of us, not just future
community psychologists, that poking fun at marginalized populations “gentle fun” and it
should not be acceptable. Psychologists or not, we all should respect for other people’s
diverse social identities and their uniqueness.

#UML #commpsych



Patricia Luki is a graduate student in the Autism Studies program at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.


Fox News Channel. (2016). Watters’ World: Chinatown edition. Retrieved October 11,
2016, from
Prilleltensky, I. (2001). Value-Based Praxis in Community Psychology: Moving Toward
Social Justice and Social Action. American Journal of Community Psychology,
29(5), 747-778. doi:10.1023/a:1010417201918


Honk! A Festival of Activist Street Bands

by Kristin Cook

When I attended the Honk! Festival of Activist Street Bands in Somerville,
Massachusetts over Columbus Day weekend, Isaac Prilleltensky’s (2001) article,
Value-Based Praxis in Community Psychology: Moving Toward Social Justice and
Social Action, was on my mind. (I had completed an analysis paper just the day before.)
Prilleltensky (2001) offers a set of values to promote personal, collective, and relational
wellness and urges the field of community psychology to intensify efforts to advance
social justice and social action. As the performances entertained me at the Honk!
Festival, I reflected on the festival’s intent to promote social justice and activism.

Honk! is a free, community organized, three day festival. Thundering brass bands from
all over the United States and the world descend on Davis Square for a “celebration of
music, community, and activism” (, 2016). The festival is funded and
organized by the grassroots effort of one thousand volunteers, local businesses, and
residents. Musicians come to the festival at their own expense, some traveling from
great distances (, 2016). I planted myself in the center of the square where
more than twenty-five energized activist bands performed throughout the day. Band
names were creative: Le Pompier Poney Club (Marseille, France), Environmental
Encroachment (Chicago, IL), Forward! Marching Band (Madison, WI), and Second Line
Social Aid and the Pleasure Society Brass Band (Somerville, MA).

I’m aware of activist musicians who promote social justice and political agendas, but I’d
never heard the term “activist band” prior to the Honk! Festival. According to (2016), an activist band is socially engaged, “some in direct action and
outright political protest, others in community building, be it performing for social justice
or community-based organizations or conducting workshops in the public schools”
(, 2016). Honk! Festival bands perform for free and symbolically, at street
level “without sound amplification and with very little distance between artist and
audience” in order to “create a participatory spectacle to reclaim public space in ways
that place them at the heart of activist politics” (, 2016).

The energy at the festival was electric; tubas, trombones, and drums boomed. I sat on
the pavement and took in the atmosphere, appreciating the performances in solidarity
with community members. I thought about the activist and social justice aims of the
Honk! Festival through the lens of Prilleltensky (2001) and community psychology. How
did this festival promote collective wellness and the value of social justice? First, the
festival did (as purported), reclaim public space. Streets in the square were auto-free,
allowing pedestrians to walk or dance freely through the square. Public parks were in
use; emphatic music created a vitality that pushed community members together and
promoted collective emotional well-being. Second, because the festival was free of
charge and performed at street level, it was inclusive. There was equal opportunity for
community members to attend, regardless of socioeconomic background or status quo.
The music, as a centerpiece of the festival promoted solidarity as the community
reveled in the sound together. Third, the city square venue provided an opportunity for
the dissemination and transmission of ideas. Children asked questions, community
members paraded with signs expressing their idealistic needs (More parks for
Somerville!), and many advocated political agendas. In the execution of the Honk!
Festival, I could see the values of community psychology, social justice, and social
action all around me. Honk! will be back in Somerville again next October.


Kristin Cook is a graduate student in the Community Social Psychology department at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

Honk! Festival of Activist Street Bands. (2016). Retrieved from
Prilleltensky, I., (2001). Value based praxis in community psychology: moving toward
social justice and social action. American Journal of Community Psychology, 29
(5), 747-774.

What Does the Community Need?

by Eric Wang

In community social psychology, before deciding on how to strengthen the group with which they are working, practitioners must first determine from what the group might benefit through a community needs and resources assessment. With this assessment, community psychologists ascertain what resources (e.g., material, social, skills) are, and what resources are not, available to the people with whom they are working. From there, decisions can be made regarding what steps to take in order to address whatever issues are present by improving the availability of, the use of, and the access to those resources (Watson-Thompson, Collie-Akers, Woods, Anderson-Carpenter, Jones, & Taylor, 2015).

Things to keep in mind

When conducting needs assessments, it is important that community workers adhere to the core values of community social psychology. Specifically, the assessment must be participatory between the community and the psychologists. This means that the practitioners must consult with the group with which they are working in order to determine what it is that the group needs and desires. This operation should be both cooperative and ongoing, allowing the community and practitioners to best analyze together the resources in the community (Watson-Thompson et al., 2015).

The assessment should also be prevention-oriented. The community members and psychologists should not only consider the current state of the community, but they should also look at the conditions (e.g., behaviors, resources) that preceded any of the problems that they might be facing. Possible future issues should also be taken into account so that the community can begin to address them as soon as possible (Watson-Thompson et al., 2015).

Furthermore, community psychologists always should maintain an ecological perspective. Effective needs assessments require professionals to scrutinize the contextual factors that are unique to the community with which they are working. Practitioners should address the historical, individual, cultural, social, systemic, and environmental aspects that have an impact on the community (Watson-Thompson et al., 2015).

Lastly, the assessment should be action-focused. When the assessment is complete, the community and the practitioners should know what problems need attention. The assessment should help guide the steps that are taken to solve those problems (Watson-Thompson et al., 2015).

Let us now take a cursory look at the executive summary of the 2013 Greater Lowell Community Health Needs Assessment to see a real world application of these principles.

The 2013 Community Health Needs Assessment of Greater Lowell

Conducted by the University of Massachusetts Lowell, the health needs assessment identified a number of resources related to health in Lowell and its surrounding townships. While they found that the region contained quality health care providers, it was also revealed that certain types of services were limited (e.g., therapists, dentists). These findings satisfy the basic definition of a community needs and resources assessment. The data were obtained using community informants, interviews of community members, and focus groups from the community, making the assessment participatory. The assessment also demonstrated a focus on prevention by determining which groups (e.g., the elderly) within the community were at an elevated risk for disease. The researchers applied an ecological perspective as well by finding social and environmental factors that impacted health (e.g., access to transportation and health insurance). Finally, the investigation emphasized action by discerning specific problems (e.g., language barriers to health care) and making recommendations to address them (e.g., increase interpreter services) (Turcotte & Vidrine, 2013).

Further Reading

The above has offered only a brief overview of part of the necessary framework for learning the needs and resources of a community. Found below are resources that can contribute to a more thorough understanding of the process.

For a more in-depth guide on community needs assessments, visit this website:

To read the executive summary or the full report of the 2013 Greater Lowell Community Health Needs Assessment, check these links: [Executive summary] [Full report]

#UML #CommPsych #CommunityHealth #GreaterLowell


Eric Wang is a graduate student in the Community Social Psychology department at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.



Turcotte, D., Vidrine, E. (2013). Greater Lowell community health needs assessment: Executive summary. University of Massachusetts Lowell. Retrieved from    mentExecutiveSummary2013.pdf

Watson-Thompson, J., Collie-Akers, V., Woods, N. K., Anderson-Carpenter, K. D., Jones, M. D., & Taylor, E. L. (2015). Participatory approaches for conducting community needs   and resources assessments. In V. C. Scott & S. M. Wolfe (Eds.), Community psychology: Foundations for practice (pp. 157-188). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.